The Effect of School Dropout on Verbal Ability in Adulthood: A Propensity Score Matching Approach


Compared to high school graduates, adolescents who drop out of school are more likely to have a range of negative outcomes, including lower verbal capacities; however, the true nature of this association is not well-understood. Dropping out of school could have an important effect on reducing verbal skills, or the link between dropping out of school and diminished verbal skills could be a spurious association that is the result of unmeasured confounding variables. This study tested these two competing perspectives by using propensity-score-matching (PSM) to unpack the association between school dropout and verbal skills among 7,317 respondents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (51% female, 49% male; 62% Caucasian, 38% minority). The results of the PSM models indicated a small yet meaningful statistically significant effect of dropout on verbal skills in adulthood, even after taking into account a range of confounders. The authors conclude by discussing the implications the results.


Vaughn, M. G., Beaver, K. M., Wexler, J., DeLisi, M., & Roberts, G. R. (2010). The effect of school dropout on verbal ability in adulthood: A propensity score matching approach. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 197–206. doi:10.1007/s10964-009-9501-1